Schlepping Out

Try to employ curiosity gap and not give away too much in the inbox. We want them to click to read the piece.

To paraphrase a famous math textbook: David Foster Wallace wrote a cruise ship story for Harper’s in 1996 and died in 2008, by his own hand. In 2014 Caity Weaver spent a week on a Paula Deen cruise and so did Taffy Brodesser-Akner, but fortunately both still live. There was also Imogen West-Knights’ “Gone Girl Cruise” story, which it’s unclear whether anyone survived. Now it is Gary Shteyngart’s turn to write about taking a cruise, and he’s filed a self-deprecating 9,400 word jeremiad on the cult of cruising and the petty cruelties of American class hierarchy which I can’t believe The Atlantic didn’t title “Schlepping Out.”

Cruise stories are like gospels—the basic structure is inherently compelling but they start to feel a little same-ey after you’ve read one or two, and you suspect most of the details were made up. It’s hard to imagine taking another crack at the gospel after John had his say (even if it was largely Jesus fanfic) or writing another cruise story after Caity had hers. But the ASME award dominating Atlantic Magazine paid nineteen thousand of Lee Greenwood’s Holy U.S. American dollars to put Gary Shteyngart in a mall-facing suite on history’s largest cruise ship, so he did his best.

Worse awaits me in the dining room. This is a large, multichandeliered room where I attended my safety training (I was shown how to put on a flotation vest; it is a very simple procedure). But the maître d’ politely refuses me entry in an English that seems to verge on another language. “I’m sorry, this is only for pendejos,” he seems to be saying. I push back politely and he repeats himself. Pendejos ? Piranhas? There’s some kind of P-word to which I am not attuned. Meanwhile elderly passengers stream right past, powered by their limbs, walkers, and electric wheelchairs. “It is only pendejo dining today, sir.” “But I have a suite!” I say, already starting to catch on to the ship’s class system. He examines my card again. “But you are not a pendejo,” he confirms. I am wearing a daddy’s little meatball T-shirt, I want to say to him. I am the essence of pendejo.

It would be so easy to act cool, like I’m too good for yet another cruise ship story. But I devoured every word of this one without a pause, and I think it’s time to admit to myself and the god of my understanding that I’m powerless against a cruise ship story. I’ll keep drinking that garbage as long as the budgets of upscale current-affairs magazines will underwrite its production. This one is worth it for the epilogue, which starts: “The maiden voyage of the Titanic… at least offered its passengers an exciting ending to their cruise.”


Auntie Joyce is not a fan.

tweety fish posed: "Now this," says the cheerful Boston weatherman, gesturing at the low, imprisoning grey cloud, the howling winds, the falling ice and deep, pelting rain smearing into ground-covering sheets of filthy slush, "this is what we call True Smarch"

According to The Athletic, Nike and Major League Baseball don’t agree on whether it’s a problem (and if so whose problem it is) that professional baseball’s new uniforms provide a nearly unimpeded view of every player’s Wonderboy. And to be fair, some fans are unbothered at the addition of translucent trousers to what has been described to me as “a very butt-first sport.” Maybe we should just update the classics and roll with it, for the good of the game?

Movie promo image mockup of Robert Redford in his baseball uniform next to the title “THE BIG NATURAL.”

Two balls, no strikes.

PEMDAS is woke now. “Dear Abby: The farmstead I bought came with a morbid surprise.” Skull issue, if you ask me. A Louisiana bill proposes hard labor for librarians who dare to join the American Library Association. Elon Musk’s social network X pioneers free blue checks for “influential member[s] of the community.” Twitter could never have done this. The Links I Would Gchat You Guide to (In)Famous Internet Essays. Caitlin Dewey is putting in the work to bring vital internet history to the people. No Labels: no platform, no candidate, no campaign. Looks like Joe Lieberman’s fake political party was buried with him and nobody will miss it. What in the Dr. Seuss is this, NPR? “Try to employ curiosity gap and not give away too much in the inbox. We want them to click to read the piece,” reports the New York Times.

“On Easter Sunday, a burglary crew allegedly broke into a vault of a money storage facility in the San Fernando Valley and got away with up to $30 million… The crew was so stealthy and malicious, that no one even noticed the money was gone until Monday when employees opened the vault, which showed no obvious signs of a break-in.”

Hell yeah. HELL YEAH. They said you couldn’t heist anymore, because of woke. Look like they were wrong! Let’s check the mood meter:

MOOD METER graphic, which goes from low energy to high energy in the Y axis and unpleasant to pleasant in the X. The bottom left (low/unpleasant) corner is labeled “it’s so over.” The top left (high/unpleasant) corner is labeled “Fuck it, We ball.” The rest of the chart is all “we’re so back.” I added a star near the top right corner (high/pleasant) and labeled it “Current Status.”

The boys are hooting and hollering.

Today’s Song: Simian Mobile Disco, “Hot Dog.” This one’s for the Discord, from Music Intern Sam. How many hot dogs do you eat a year?

Good to see work in here from Senior Managing Editor for Graphics and Fanfic Alison Headley again (to be clear, it’s the good one not the mood meter). It’s been a while and I have no one to blame for that but myself. This feels like a short post but I guess you’ve got nine and a half kilowords of cruise ship story to get through so you better get started.

Premium Pinnacle Status, Diamond, and Diamond Plus subscribers: look for an open thread tomorrow. Free readers, please hold very still and remain calm for your mandatory subscription pitch, starting in 5… 4… 3…

Paid Tabs is just $6 a month or $35 for the first year and entitles you to concierge-level tab service in our famous Discord lounge, as well as premium Friday posts on the Lido deck. For the discerning and élite newsletter guest, it’s an absolute must.